Man Uses “Rape Panic” Defense in Murder Charge

A man told police, among other things, that another man had given him a ride home from a club. The man who offered the ride was later found bludgeoned to death in a pool of his own blood. The suspect, who was covered in blood, initially told police that he fell down the stares, but later revealed that he had bludgeoned the man to death with a hammer after the man had allegedly tried to rape him. Police found the victim’s wallet in the suspect’s possession. The suspect did not have a good reason for possessing the wallet. He has since been charged with first-degree murder.

The man pleaded guilty to a battery charge while out on parole for an unrelated offense. He was sentenced in 2013 for attempted murder. He pleaded self-defense in that case, too.

Analyzing the Defense

This type of defense hearkens back to “gay panic” defenses that were so popular throughout the 70s and 80s. Essentially, a man would go home with another man, realize the intentions of that man, and flip out, murdering him in a weird rage of self-loathing and shame. Such defenses were successful often enough. The same defense was adapted to the transgender community if a man went home with a trans woman and later found out that she was assigned male at birth. Today, such defenses are obsolete. Many states have moved to prevent their use in courtrooms. Jurors are less likely to buy these defenses than they were in the 80s. But what if you claim rape?

Herein lies the rub. While there is no reason a grown man cannot control himself in the presence of a another grown man who wants to have sex with him, or simply opt out of a sexual experience when they find out their sexual interest has a different body than they expected, most people would understand if you flipped out on someone who was trying to rape you. That would be a valid self-defense argument to murder (sort of).

Is This the Last Iteration of the Panic Defense?

The best any panic defense can generally do is get your first- or second-degree murder charges reduced to manslaughter. In the case of rape, you can do whatever you need to do to prevent the rape from happening. However, bludgeoning someone over and over until their skull is cracked to pieces is going to look more like a rage offense than a fear offense. Panicked people tend to retreat from dangerous situations once they have the upper hand. The prosecution will compare the defendant’s conduct to those in panic situations. 

Problematically, a defense like this being used in a case involving the death of a gay man is going to trigger a lot of cultural trauma. Further, a defense like this shifts the burden of proof to the defendant (hence the term affirmative defense). The defendant will need to establish that they were genuinely in fear of their own life when they “panicked” and attacked. Can you truly say you wouldn’t beat someone to death after they attempted to rape you?

Talk to a Chicago Criminal Defense Attorney Today

Chicago is not a good town for any type of panic defense. Nonetheless, David Freidberg can help defend you from serious charges and produce an outcome you can live with. Call today at (312) 560-7100 and we can begin preparing your defense immediately.

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